After two weeks driving around the south island of New Zealand, we crossed the Cook Strait in our trusty Escape Rentals van and set foot on the north island, ready to continue our New Zealand adventure! Read on to find out what route we took on our 1 week adventure around New Zealand’s North Island!

New Zealand North Island Itinerary

First up on our tour, Wellington!

New Zealand north island itinerary

Wellington

After arriving on the ferry, we’d highly recommend spending a couple of days in the capital. However, finding a good place to stay can be tricky. You can stay in the city and pay a little more, or drive 8-10 km outside of the city to a motor inn and catch a public bus in. Being the cheaper and less stressful option, we opted to stay just outside the city at the Capital Gateway Motor Inn in Newlands, a mere 10 minutes bus ride away from the city.

We had originally planned to spend only one day in Wellington, but after loving our first day there we decided to extend or stay by a couple of days.

You’ll find a great choice of restaurants, bars, shops, theatres and museums in Wellington and a great vibe to go with them. In particular, we’d highly recommend a visit to the National Museum ‘Te Papa’. Set in an impressively designed building, it’s packed with many interesting exhibitions from Maori history and New Zealand’s geological history, to the world’s largest captured squid encased in a glass box for viewing!

On weekends, near the museum and adjacent to the riverside, you’ll find an international food market serving up an amazing array of cuisines including Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Chinese and many more.

Aside from great food and bars, you can also get a great view over the city by riding the cable car to a lookout spot near the city’s beautiful botanical gardens.

Wellington to Tongariro Alpine National Park

After a fantastic couple of days in Wellington, we journeyed north towards Tongariro National Park where we took on the challenge of the Tongariro crossing.

New Zealand north island itinerary
Tongariro Crossing Hike, North Island

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, volcanoes and stunning lakes, the breathtaking landscape easily made this trek one of our highlights of our New Zealand tour.

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Tongariro Alpine National Park to Rotorua

Around two hours north east of the Tongariro National Park was our next stop, at the distinctive smelling town of Rotorua. This is where you’ll find New Zealand’s home of geysers, mud pools, thermal villages and a strong smell of sulphur to go with them! Here you can take a tour of a traditional thermal village and enjoy a dip in one of the many natural hot springs. We sampled a few to soothe our sore trekking muscles, and also took a visit to Whakarewarewa Thermal village where the local Maoris explained their interesting lifestyle and use of the geological landscape in which they live.

New Zealand north island itinerary
Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, Rotorua

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Rotorua to Otorohanga

Next we ventured west to check out the famous glow worm caves of Waitomo, close to the town of Otorohanga. There’s not much to do here other than take a tour of the amazing caves but it was well worth a visit in our opinion! The caves were magical and Otorohanga is a very nice town to spend a couple of days relaxing in if like us you need a rest from driving! Check out our experience of the Waitomo caves!

New Zealand north island itinerary
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

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Otorohanga to Auckland

And so, after almost 4 weeks of touring the south and north islands of New Zealand, it was nearly time for us to hand back our trusty campervan, so off we went to Auckland, our final stop of the tour.  Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the Bay of Islands in the north or the Coromandel area in the north east this time, but there’s always next time! Overall, New Zealand is an incredible country to visit, and we would recommend having your own transport to get around the two islands. If you’re into extreme sports, you’ll be well catered for! But, if like us you’re not so bothered about throwing yourself off various edifices, then the stunning scenery and walks of the country will keep you more than occupied for a month!

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